I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Metal!
Blazon Stone - Down in the Dark
Genre(s): Melodic Power/Speed Metal/Pirate Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, Sept. 2017
Ahoy, me hearties! Just when ye thought it was safe to go back in the water, the Flying Dutchman's favorite band, Blazon Stone, has returned from the briny deep with a dozen new tales of adventure, treachery, and treasure on the high seas! Hoist the skull and crossbones and prepare to board! YARR, we'll take their rum and wenches and keelhaul the posers from the yardarm...or something!
But seriously, folks...I am convinced that Swedish metal multi-instrumentalist Cederick "Ced" Forsberg must sleep with his guitar in his hands at night, so that when he wakes up in the morning he's written yet another album. It's the only possible explanation for the man's amazing productivity. Down in the Dark is Blazon Stone's third album in just two years (three and a half if you count 2016's bite-sized Ready For Boarding EP), plus he's already appeared on one other full length album this year, Cloven Altar's Enter The Night. Hmmm, maybe he doesn't sleep!
Down in the Dark continues in the same tradition as all of Blazon Stone's previous output—classy, no-frills, melodic power/speed metal inspired by the pirate-obsessed German '80s metalers, Running Wild. In other words, they're basically a Running Wild "tribute band" that writes its own material, if that makes any sense.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Blazon Stone is that they are still a two-man operation, with Ced performing all of the guitars, drums and bass (!) while vocals are laid down by Erik Forsberg. Down in the Dark marks Erik's third turn at the Blazon mic (he made his debut on last year's War of the Roses full length and Ready For Boarding EP) and he has settled comfortably into his role, sounding more powerful and confident than ever.
"Down in the Dark"
A brief instrumental opener called "The Galleons Departure" sets the mood, then Down in the Dark fully detonates with "Into Victory," a proper all-men-play-on-ten anthem full of non-stop guitar riffage and precision drumming. The title track is next up and features an irresistible chant-along gang chorus and a particularly sizzling guitar solo from Ced. I'm particularly fond of the epic "Hanged, Drawn And Quartered," which starts off with some cinematic-sounding classical flourishes (Captain Jack Sparrow would approve) before shifting into a somewhat slower groove that brings German metal stalwarts Accept to mind. "Eagle Warriors" brings us back into speed-metal territory, as does the fine "Tavern Of The Damned" (Hey, that's what I call the place where I met my ex!)
After that brief bit of shore leave, "Merciless Pirate King" and "Watery Graves" take us back out to sea and keep things nautical 'n' heavy, while "Rock Out" encourages the listener to do exactly that. By this point your arms may be sore from air-guitaring but Blazon Stone isn't quite done with you yet -- "1478" provides a brief thirty-six second interlude before "Bloody Inquisition" crashes into you with a tidal wave of riffs and "Captain Of The Wild" brings this epic sea battle to a satisfying close.
In addition to its musical quality, Down in the Dark is also a very well-produced album. The walls of razor-wire guitar riffing and cannon-fire drums are spotlessly recorded and expertly mixed. When you listen at the properly obnoxious volume level (especially through headphones!), it sounds for all the world like an actual band; it's hard to believe that this was all the work of only two guys. Obviously Cedrick has got some serious skills with recording equipment, in addition to his prodigious musical talent. The way-cool comic book style cover and booklet art put the finishing touches on an all-around killer package. Kudos!
"Hanged, Drawn & Quartered"
Summing it up
Could Down in the Dark be the best Blazon Stone album yet? After numerous spins I'm inclined to say "yes." Though their slavish devotion to re-creating the sound of vintage Running Wild likely means that Blazon Stone will remain a "niche" act, they continue to improve their craft by leaps and bounds on each album. Down in the Dark is their most focused assault yet, and if Ced and Erik keep producing material like this, then Rock N' Rolf and the rest of the fellas in Running Wild (whose last album, Rapid Foray, was released to lukewarm reviews in 2016) might wanna start looking in their rear view mirror. Sorry guys, but there's a new pirate crew in town. The students have become the masters!
All Ced and Erik need to do now is bring in some additional players so they can turn Blazon Stone into a "real" band that can go on the road. There are plenty of retro-minded old school "true metal" festivals springing up around the world, and those crowds would eat this stuff up with a spoon. How about it, fellas? If you make it happen, I'll be right in the front row, singing along with a bottle of rum in each hand. Yarrrrr, bring it on!
Blazon Stone discography:
Return to Port Royal - 2013
No Sign of Glory - 2015
War of the Roses - 2016
Ready For Boarding (EP) - 2016
Down in the Dark - 2017
(all titles released on Stormspell Records)
© 2017 Keith Abt